Mind your diabetes: Food remedies and acupoint massages

Diabetes is a growing problem here. As many as one in three Singaporeans will develop this metabolic disease by the time they reach 69.

Type 2 diabetes, which is far more common, occurs when the body fails to produce enough insulin or is unable to use it properly. Type 1 diabetes arises when the pancreas does not make insulin.

While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, one can guard against or control type 2 diabetes by modifying his lifestyle.

Dr Clement Ng, a volunteer TCM physician with the diabetes clinic in Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution, said uncontrolled diabetes is commonly known as xiaoke (translated as emaciation-thirst).

TCM practitioners typically classify diabetes into three types: upper, middle and lower xiaoke.

The upper type is characterised by excessive thirst, the middle by excessive hunger, and the lower by excessive urination.

At some point in their illness, most people with diabetes manifest symptoms of all three types.

Dr Ng said that diabetes is linked to various factors: a diet of excess fat and sugar, which causes "heatiness" in the body; emotional disturbances, such as depression; a weak body constitution; and other environmental factors.

Five common syndromes can be traced to diabetes:


•Causes: Exposure to a hot and humid environment and excessive consumption of fried and spicy food, which causes heat to build up in the body. Taking too much cold food and drinks also weakens the spleen and results in dampness.

•Symptoms: Thirst with no desire to drink, hunger with no desire to eat, a bitter taste in the mouth, a general feeling of heaviness of the body, and a tongue with a thick, yellow and greasy coating. Patients may also have dark-coloured urine and a rapid pulse.

•Food remedy: Cook 100g of celery with 250g of tofu in vegetable oil. Add some green onions, ginger and corn flour,  as well as salt and sesame oil to taste.


•Causes: A body constitution weak from childbirth or ageing, inadequate rest and a preference for "heaty" food.

•Symptoms: A dry throat and mouth, thirst with a desire for cold beverages, constipation and frequent hunger pangs that lead to overeating. The person may perspire abnormally at night, have warm palms and feet or have little or no coating on the tongue.

•Food remedy: Cook porridge with 50g of cooked rice and 100g to 150g of spinach.


•Causes: This double whammy occurs in the later stages of diabetes, when unchecked "heatiness" in the body depletes both qi (vital energy) and yin (the element that cools organs).

•Symptoms: Excessive thirst, fatigue, shortness of breath, a reluctance to speak, heart palpitations, insomnia, and warm sensation in palms and soles.

•Food remedy: Cook soup with 20g of black fungus, 50g of lean meat and 10 wolfberries. Add ginger and onion to taste.


•Causes: A prolonged yin deficiency will lead to a yang deficiency. For instance,

a person who speaks often would deplete his yin through the loss of salivary fluids and eventually stop the physical activity of talking, which is represented by yang (the element linked to heat).

•Symptoms: Dry mouth, fear of the cold, aching back and knees, frequent night-time urination, dizziness and a tongue with a thick coating that is etched with teeth marks. The person's heart palpitations or insomnia will be worse than those with deficiencies in qi and yin.

•Food remedy: Stir-fry 300g of enokitake mushrooms with 100g of pork. Add spring onions, salt and sesame oil as desired.


•Causes: Untreated chronic diseases will damage the collaterals, which are branches of meridians (channels through which qi flows) in the body.

A prolonged lack of qi, yin and yang will lead to numbness and, eventually, sharp painful sensations within the body.

•Symptoms: Pain in the chest, waist or back, and diabetic complications that involve the small blood vessels, such as numbness of the feet.

The person's tongue may appear dull and the lips may have a bluish tinge.

Heart palpitations and insomnia may occur.

Acupoint massages

Massage each acupoint for three to four minutes, as frequently as you like. They help to address different TCM syndromes associated with diabetes. They can be done on one or both limbs.


What it does: Regulate qi throughout the body.

Use a finger to feel for the two tendons on the wrist of the other hand.

Mark out the area that is approximately one-sixth the distance from the wrist to the elbow, then identify the acupoint that lies between these two tendons.

Massage this acupoint with a finger, or pinch this point with your thumb and index finger.

Alternatively, you can use the tip of a pen to do the massage.


What it does: Promote qi circulation in the stomach meridian to resolve bloatedness, excessive hunger and tiredness.

Identify the hollow point of the outer knee.

Place four fingers below this point.

Just below the level of your little finger, identify the point that is about one thumb's width from the tibia (shin bone).

You should feel a bit of soreness when you massage this point.


What it does: Eliminate blood stasis.

Identify the highest spot on the inner ankle.

Place four fingers above this spot.

Identify another spot above the topmost finger and behind the tibia (shin bone).

Massage this acupoint with a finger. You should feel a bit of soreness when you press on this point.


What it does: Nourish kidneys to alleviate excessive urination, thirst and urinary incontinence.

Identify the hollow point between your inner ankle and edge of the tendon adjacent to it.

Massage this point.

This article was first published on Aug 11, 2015.
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